.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Round Peg

Location: Muscat, Oman/ Bangalore, India

Round Peg....in a square hole. That describes me! All my life I have never quite fit in ... now I have just given up trying to live up to the expectations of the square hole or trying to find a round one!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Durian

I am resuming blogging after a long time and I do this with a fairly inane post – our experiences with the Durian, Singapore’s famous fruit.

Having holidayed in Singapore last month we heard enough about the Durian fruit.

Marvelled at the opera house built in the shape of the durian and laughed at the sign boards that prohibit people carrying the durian on the MRT trains.

Back in Muscat at Lulu’s I saw a durian and bought it. That’s one of the perks about living in the Middle East - one gets exposed to so many foods and cultures.

Back home, the husband and I googled to find out how one actually eats this fruit and then we set about doing just that.

The durian reminded us so much of the jackfruit. Same thorny exterior, strong smell and pulpy fruit inside.

However, the durian we bought was rather dry and tasteless. Compared to the jackfruit, the jackfruit was a winner all the way. And while we did not dislike the durian, it is not a fruit we will buy again in a hurry!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Recruitment Agencies

JibberJobber.com has an article on recruitment agencies and how they invariably leave job seekers feeling somewhat shortchanged.

This is because the entire recruitment process is skewed in favour of recruiters that pay the bills.

John Doe came to the Gulf having left a career in one of India’s best and most professionally run hospitality chains. When he got here, he was shocked by the unprofessional manner in which the organization was run. That salaries were not paid regularly was another matter.

Another John Doe came here only to find he was being paid half of what his peers in the industry were getting. John Doe’s boss bragged to us how he had got a replacement at half the cost of the former hire.

I heard John Doe’s boss has recruited 2 more people from the same recruiting agency based in Bombay. Quite likely they are recruited at atrociously low salaries. Very likely, the recruiting agency head knows next to nothing about the companies he is hiring for, the prevalent salary levels in the country or working conditions.

This is particularly hard on people seeking jobs in foreign countries or cities since they are not privy to local information or working conditions.

Information in the Middle East is notoriously scarce. Most organizations here are family run, often managed in the same autocratic manner as their countries are run. Expats have no way of checking out the credentials and working conditions of the company they are about to join.

Now if only recruitment agencies were more proactive and offered job seekers more information about companies they are applying for. Job seekers would be willing to pay for such a service, I am sure.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Snapshots from the Middle East: Ours vs the rest!

‘Bakrid’ is round the corner and like last year the ‘bakri’ (goat in Hindi) is back at the villa next door.

I wince every time I hear it bleat and thank my stars we have a road that separates our house from theirs. I thank my stars even more because they slaughter the poor animal in the driveway away from the road and our house. The house that flanks the driveway where they make their kill houses Indians, vegetarians most probably. I wonder how they cope with what must be a horrible and gruesome sight.

I have known many Muslims in India and quite honestly its only now that I am aware they are Muslims. Back then they were just friends, that they were Muslims hardly registered.

Not one of my Muslims friends ever slaughtered a goat in their house. I am sure it is illegal to slaughter at home but even if it was legal I cannot imagine any of my friends picking up an axe or whatever and calmly or gleefully proceeding to kill a terrified and helpless animal.

Not a single Muslim friend wears a veil or a burkha. In India, burkha clad women are seen mostly in predominantly Muslims areas that are poor and decrepit. Well educated and affluent Muslims do not wear the veil.

And I do not know of a single Muslim in India that has multiple wives. Sure there are Muslims with four wives but almost never from the educated or affluent class.

Names like Talal, Hanadi, Suad, Tamim, Haitham, Salwa are all Middle Eastern. I have never come across these names in India. Rafiq is quite a common name in India but in Qatar Rafiq is a derogatory term used to address people lower than oneself in social standing.

So is the Indian middle class Muslim different from her counter part in the Middle East?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Inventive Thinking

A bit gruesome this. I caught a story on the BBC that reported sale of organs of prisoners executed in China.

Apparently as much as 90% of transplanted kidneys in China come from executed prisoners.

The report and Amnesty International were disapproving of the fact that the prisoners were probably not given any real option on whether they would like to donate their organs.

Considering that the prisoners probably gave their victims no option before they harmed them is their permission to use their body parts after they is dead and have no use for them important?

In the meantime some devoted parent or a much-loved child or spouse gets a second chance at living. And a man that harmed society gets a chance to redeem himself.

Which brings me to the popular legend about the Chinese company that won a tender in Oman. The prices quoted were impossibly low and competition was totally bemused till they figured that the labour used in the project were Chinese prisoners who needed to be paid nothing at all!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Who dug the well?

Last week we did not watch TV and so missed what the media described as the story that grabbed the eyeballs of an entire nation – the story of 6 year old Prince in India who fell into a hole about 60 feet deep and 9 inches wide.

The ’hole’ was an attempt to dig a well. When no water was found, the hole was carelessly covered with 2 sand bags and left unattended.

Happily it’s a story that ended well. Despite having spent a grueling 50 hours in the hole, the child was rescued.

Apparently the TV channels went overboard and sensationalized the story. Sensing opportunity for free publicity corporate houses and politicians outdid themselves in promising support for the child.

But what really gets to me is that no body is talking about the people that left the hole unattended.

Should there not be criminal charges of neglect passed against them?

Instead of promising money to little Prince or mouthing the mandatory platitudes, the government would be much better off creating legislation making such irresponsible behavior punishable.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Harried Mom

My son's friend at playschool was being unusually aggressive and this worried his mother.

I did not realize how much this disturbed her till the day I ran into her at school. As we passed, she smiled and said ‘Don’t bite anyone today and be good dear’.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Actor and the Mahatma

My maid, who is from Kundapur, Karnataka,was the one that broke the news about Raj Kumar’s death. She had watched it on ETV Kannada.

I caught the news item on NDTV. Raj Kumar, they said, had died at home. He was brought to the Ramiaih Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. It seemed to me that the report was at great pains to point out that the legend had died at home and not in the hospital.

Ramiah Hospital correctly anticipated a rampage – which took place any way - had the icon had died in the hospital (which he probably did!) .

This reminded me of my father recounting the day Mahatma Gandhi died. The news on radio emphasized that Gandhi had been shot by a Hindu. This was done, because the Govt. feared Hindu-Muslim riots.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Penalize the mob

The rampage and destruction that followed the death of RajKumar, Kannada actor and icon, is as appalling as it is baffling.

Even more shameful is the way Javed’s friends and relatives stormed the hospital in Meerut.

Javed succumbed to severe burn injuries sustained when he saved about 7 lives in the Meerut fire tragedy last week. Angered at the refusal of the hospital authorities to let a crowd into the room where doctors were fighting to save Javed’s life and later the death of Javed, provoked the crowd to violence.

Who knows how many sick people the hospital turned away even as it struggled to come back to normal?

It is time the courts took steps to penalize the mobs. Pictures of people destroying public property should be published and these people should be punished. Severely. Punishing even a handful will ensure the mob is more careful the next time round.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Surprised in Muscat


This was amongst the first signboards I saw in Muscat. I was shocked.

I never expected to see a Hindu Indian name on a signboard. Not that Asha has any Hindu connotations. Asha means hope but the word has its roots in Sanskrit, the ancient language in which Hindu texts are written.

My reference point was Doha where there used to be an Indian restaurant called Ashoka.

The word Ashoka has no Hindu connotations either. Having its roots in Sanskrit, Ashoka means free from sorrow.

But history speaks of a great Indian king called Ashoka. Circa 3 BC, he ruled over a sizeable portion of South Asia. After a particularly bloodthirsty battle, history says he was so overcome by the death, loss and destruction war entails, Ashoka resolved never to go to war again. He turned to Buddhism and from that time onwards dedicated his reign towards promoting peace and non-violence. He was a great king by any standards.

But authorities in Doha took exception to the ‘Hindu’ name of the restaurant and the owners were forced to change it. It was renamed Alshoka and probably still stands on C-Ring Road.

It was against this background that I gaped at the signboard that proudly read Asha Enterprises. That was the first time I tipped my hat to Oman. That’s when I knew we would come to love Oman as if it were our home country.

 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Them and us

Two comments prompt this post.

The first. Chulupu’s comment to a post of mine on the trend of Indian maids converting to Christianity.

He says ‘I don’t know if you all know this. According to Islam religion, we are not allowed to eat food made out of the Hands of Non Muslim and No(n) Christian. As a result many maids pose to be Muslims or Christians.’’

The second, a comment by my neighbour who is looking for a maid. I recommended Khadija. The neighbour waffled around a bit and finally blurted out - ‘We do a lot of pooja (worship) at home and we would ideally prefer a Hindu to be around our articles of worship but a Christian will do’.

The sentiments underlying both the comments are similar, but each comment is from across the fence as it were!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

M K Yusuf, Sam Walton of Muscat?

The Khimji Mart in Madinat Qaboos (Hay Al Rahba, Muscati!) is doing very well.

Particularly the vegetable section which every body says is– ‘as cheap as Lulu’.

The Lulu Hypermarket, about 2 years old in Muscat, has then become a benchmark for retail players.

Time was when the only (good) vegetable selection for people in and around Madinat Qaboos and Al Khuwair was Khalijana. The vegetables were (and are) very good but prices high.

Many actually preferred the Wadi Kabeer vegetable market since prices there are supposedly very low compared to Khalijana. Even so, Khalijana used to be full of people.

Lulu changed all that. Now Khalijana is often empty and what is more prices have fallen. Avowed Wadi Kabeer goers have transferred loyalties to Lulu.

With all its faults, Lulu has offered people a good alternative. Shopping in pleasant environs at low prices and within city limits. And it has forced other stores to drop prices and up service. Way to go, Sam Walton would have approved!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Manner of Protests

If you look at the protests against the Mohammed cartoons, they have mostly taken the form of demonstrations – some peaceful, many violent in that they have involved the declaring of malicious intents, throwing of stones, worse molotov cocktails, torching of buildings, flags… and saddest of all - one person died in Afghanistan.

The protests in the GCC have been markedly different. Here the protests have been non-violent. They have taken the form of a boycott of products from Denmark and this move has probably hurt Denmark the most.

Of all the countries in the world to take exception to the cartoons, I expect the countries in the GCC are offended the most. And yet there has been no violence whatsoever. Commendable. I imagine the Danes in Oman pretty much go about their lives as usual except that they probably downplay their nationality and keep their opinions to themselves.

I wonder why the reaction in the GCC has been so different. Is it because the GCC as a people are more mature? They were certainly able to make their objections felt and all this without traffic being disrupted, a single stone being thrown or a building being burnt.

Or is it because, living as they do under authoritarian regimes, there is no possibility of demonstrations – peaceful or violent here?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Khimji’s Mart - now open at MQ

The Madinat Qaboos outlet of Khimji’s Mart opened today.

On Day One of the opening, the store has tremendous goodwill from the people in and around the area.

For one thing there is no other store close by. Omanization put an end to all the small stores that used to operate in the region.

Secondly they have a big captive audience in the Hay Al Rahba Complex itself – the store is located on the fringes of this residential complex.

Hay Al Rahba houses some 200 flats, 40 townhouses and 40 independent villas. The residents can walk down to the store in less than 5 minutes.

Will the store succeed? . Al Fair apparently used to operate a store in the complex many years ago but they shut shop when people did not buy anything other than milk and bread from them.

Price the products high and everybody will make a bee line to Lulu.

Don’t get the product mix right and people like me will continue to drive all the way to Ruwi to Haridas Nensey for grocery items. And I might even have to continue to stop off at Lulus for my ‘white goods’ – milk, laban and youghurt because Lulu is the only place where I am assured of Al Marai’s skimmed milk.

For now however the Khimji’s appear to have a winner on their hands. Wishing them all luck!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Eid on a bleat note

Our neighbour, Pakistanis, slaughtered 4 goats in their house today.

It was rather horrible hearing the goats bleating out and straining at the ropes to get away.

We played loud music and shut all windows and drew the curtains at home but it did not make us feel any better.

For the neighbours, this is an annual event they look forward to.

Qatar bans any slaughter of animals within residential premises and this rule is strictly enforced.I am surprised Oman does not have similar laws.

A day will surely dawn when we stop associating festivities with slaughter or sport with the hunting. I hope so!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Mother’s Kitchen!

At Ruwi round about I saw a shop with the name ‘Mother’s Kitchen’.

Mother’s food is aspirational. True. But her kitchen? I am not so sure!